So, you’re motivated and you have your ‘why’; a real reason to achieve something that continues to be motivating long after the novelty has worn off. You want to give running a go but how and where do you start?
It might sound like a basic question, but actually get it wrong and it could put you off forever. Get it right though, and it could turn into a genuine love. Everyone says running is one of the easiest forms of exercise to just do. Running trainers and basic sports kit are all you need. But then what? What are your options?
Well, you can run alone. You can get your trainers on and be out of the door at a time to suit you for however long suits you, on a route that suits you and at a pace that suits you – it’s all about you!
This is hugely simple, satisfying and a little bit of private running narcissism can be very good for the soul.
Running alone is great and I love it but for some people, it can be disheartening, lonely and they find their motivation diminishes with every step. If this is you, then you might benefit from having a running partner! Suddenly, running becomes sociable and having a running partner can make you accountable; you won’t want to stand your friend up when you have a run scheduled.
Partners can distract from a monotonous route or offer a sense of solidarity whilst running in extreme weather and mutual support can encourage you both to eat those hills…sort of.
There are some specific criteria for a running buddy so bear these in mind before making a selection.
Firstly, they need to be punctual; or you both need to be equally poor timekeepers. It is no fun dragging yourself out of bed for a 6am meet with your buddy only to be stood there on your own until they rock up. At that time in the morning it’s hard to forgive or forget that extra 15 minutes they had in bed.
Secondly, they need to be your sort of pace. The point is to run together, not to have your new and therefore delicate runner’s ego crushed because your partner is two metres ahead calling back to you, or even worse, they are side stepping whilst chatting to you. Actually if you’ve recruited a side-stepper, you may revert to the behaviour of the unpunctual and hope they get the hint.
Finally, you need to feel very comfortable with your running friend because the act of running can play havoc with our bodily etiquette. That is all that needs to be said.
So, what if you think you’d benefit from even more company whilst running, or a set time and place each week appeals to you? Perhaps group running might be more suited to your personality and your social needs?
Group running is enormous fun but it might not be what you imagine it to be. For a start, in order to differentiate the inevitable variation in abilities, the run leader or coach might ask the faster ones to ‘turn around’ at certain points and come back to them at the back. When the group all catch up together to await the next instructions, there may be short period of standing still. For runners who haven’t run with a group, this and the turnarounds, can feel disjointed and counterproductive. It is something you can get used to though and accept as part of the group running experience.
Group running is very sociable; running with likeminded people can offer a strong sense of camaraderie; at it’s best it can also feel basic and primal and it can create an excitement that can encourage you to run harder than you might otherwise. For group running opportunites, look up your local club. In Shrewsbury, we are lucky enough to have several and you’ll find they meet maybe twice a week and perhaps, like my club, they will offer a coached track night too.
For the ultimate in group running though, and if you’ve never been to one, please try your local Parkrun. A weekly, free timed 5km run that takes place up and down the country at 9am on Saturdays in local parks. You just have to register online, print out your bar code and turn up for a 9am start. It is for all ages and all fitness levels and demonstrates community spirit at its best.
I am a big Parkrun fan and could go on about the benefits it has brought so many people physically not to mention the strong sense of almost kinship being part of Parkrun offers. Just try it. And don’t forget your barcode. #dfyb
Finally, your last option on how to get started with running is to have a running coach. A running coach will take all of the thinking out of your sessions and they will be tailored to your goals. All you have to do to keep your side of the bargain is turn up fuelled and hydrated and ready to go. Your coach will warm you up, take you on a pre-planned route, focus on technique and form and provide the motivation when you need it. There’s also a chance you will have fun!
So, hopefully having read this, you are still motivated, and you still want to give running a try! Pick an option and have a go. You won’t know unless you try!